FLORIDA: Changing the Message about Military Suicide

October 18, 2016
News Type:  From the Field
State:  Florida

In July 2016, Dr. Sam Stephens, a US Navy psychologist, read an opinion piece in the Orlando (Florida) Sentinel titled “Off to War, Then Home to Commit Suicide: The Interview.” Dr. Stephens emailed the Sentinel’s Opinion Editor and noted that the helpful information in the article was overshadowed by the dramatic headline which “contributes to frequent public messaging that establishes suicide as a behavioral norm for those who serve in the military and experience hopelessness” and that “certain approaches to media reports and other means of public messaging have been linked to increased rates of suicide-related behavior.” He also directed the editor to the Poynter Institute Training “Reporting on Mental Health Conditions and Suicide” as he was certain that “the Orlando Sentinel does not want to increase the chance that more people will die by suicide.” His faith in the Sentinel’s good intentions and his efforts to promote appropriate messaging were rewarded on the same day when the headline was changed to “Experts Confront Military Suicide: The Interview.”

For more information on working with the media, see Safe and Effective Messaging and Reporting.

Populations:  Military Service Members and Veterans
Planning and Implementing:  News and Entertainment Media